CONCACAF Champions League / Match previews / Union

Match preview: Atlas FC vs. Philadelphia Union

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Who: Atlas Fútbol Club (13th out of 18 in the Liga MX Clausura) vs. Philadelphia Union (10th of 15 in MLS Eastern Conference)
What: Second leg of the 2023 Concacaf Champions League Quarterfinal
Where: Estadio Jalisco, Guadalajara, MX
When: Wednesday, April 12, 10 p.m. EDT
Watch: FS1, TUDN
Whistle: Ivan Barton (SLV); David Moran (SLV), Zachari Zeegelaar (SUR);  Jaime Herrera (SLV); Ricardo Montero (CRC), Melissa Borjas Pastrana (HON)

With their MLS season off to a shaky start, the Union look to tonight’s meeting with Liga MX’s Atlas F.C. to bring some happiness to Chester.

And despite the traditional superiority of Liga MX over MLS, that hope may not be be in vain.

Atlas are no superpower, currently sitting outside the playoffs with just three games remaining in the Clausura. So while the Union can throw everything they’ve got at this match, confident there’s plenty of MLS season left to play, Atlas manager Benjamin Mora has to make hard decisions about where his team’s priorities lie.

Scouting report: Atlas F.C.

Los Rojinegros are really in a tough spot. As discussed they’re running out of time to break into the Liga MX Calusura playoffs, and that’s before you consider the challenge they’ll face in the Union.

Overcoming a single-goal deficit at home is not impossible. But they’ll have to do it without the services of two key players, namely centerback Anderson Santamaría (who received a red card in the first leg of the quarterfinals) and — more importantly — winger Brian Lozano, who will miss the second match due to accumulation. Without two of their most valuable players Atlas will be working with at least a second choice defender and winger. Add in their precarious league position and it’s not implausible that they might not try and field a first-choice lineup Wednesday night.

  • Injury report: None.
  • Suspended: Anderson Santamaría (red card in first leg), Brian Lozano (yellow card accumulation) Suspension risk: José Abella misses the next round if he receives one more yellow card.
Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

On the other side of the ball, the Union are also just below the playoff line in MLS competition. But with so much soccer left to play, that’s a much less significant issue. And while a handful of players, including a couple expected starters in Julián Carranza and Damion Lowe, are in danger of missing the first leg of a potential semifinal, no one is missing for this game. So there’s every reason to expect the Union to go with the first-choice lineup they’ve shown in Concacaf Champions League play so far.

Unfortunately that’s not exactly comforting.

The Union’s struggles in MLS play appear to be more than a continental-play hangover. The multi-pronged offense, which made the Union so difficult to contain last season, has gone flat. Carranza, Uhre, and Gazdag combined scored 1.4 goals per game in 2022. So far in 2023, they’re only at 0.8 goals per game. Add in the fact that last season Cory Burke (seven goals in 2022) was always on tap in case one of the starting forwards needed to come off the field, while this season it’s the as-yet unrealized potential of Joaquín Torres.

The point is the Union are having a hard time finding the back of the net, and that’s exactly what they’ll need to do in Estadio Jalisco. The goal they scored in Chester is nice, but one on the road would be even better.

  • Injury report: Questionable: Kai Wagner (hamstring, with the team in Mexico)
  • Suspended: None. Suspension Risk: Jack McGlynn, Julián Carranza, Damion Lowe, Jesús Bueno miss the next round if they receive one more yellow card.
Key matchup: Aldo Rocha vs. Dániel Gazdag

The defensive midfielder and Atlas captain has a lot of responsibility in Benjamin Mora’s preferred 5-3-2 formation, and that responsibility will only be increased with Brian Lozano unavailable.

Gazdag could take advantage, combining his speed and passing ability to force Rocha into tough decisions. If he’s able to force enough tough decisions, eventually the wrong decision will be made and the Union should be able to capitalize.

Player to watch: Mikael Uhre

The Dane showed spectacular potential last season, scoring a goal nearly every other appearance for the Union in 2022. However he’s been less spectacular in 2023, lacking the spark that made him such an exciting player last season.

If he finds his groove down in Mexico it could break this game wide open. And have a knock-on effect for when the Union return to MLS play after this leg.

Prediction: Atlas F.C. 2-1 Philadelphia Union (Union advance on away goal)

Despite Atlas’ unenviable roster situation, and rapidly closing Clausura, hoping to beat a Liga MX team at home is a tough ask. Not impossible, but also not necessary. The Union come into the game with a goal already in their pocket, and it’s unlikely a depleted Atlas will be able to prevent them from finding another. Two goals, one of them away, would be a tough hurdle for Atlas to overcome, even if they are prioriticing CCL play.


  1. I agree, one goal may be enough, since Atlas would need 3. Let’s hope we can find one, and get ready for LAFC in the next round.

    • I’m weary because many an MLS team have said these exact same words before getting blown out in the second leg

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    They need to play for more than a draw or a one goal loss if they want to host the second leg next round. If they win, they do that, if they draw or lose by a goal, they have to go to LA for the second leg.

  3. FCdelcofella says:


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